What problem does this solve?
An understanding of how Wikipedia works should be part of a general media literacy, similar to knowing the differences between free and unfree press. That’s why explaining Wikipedia sometimes goes beyond gaining new active editors, it can have different purposes. According to the standards of media education, a good way of understanding media production is to produce media. You get a better picture of Wikipedia if you edit Wikipedia. However, this approach is different from teaching future Wikipedia editors who need to know other skills.
This learning pattern shows how to use Wikipedia editing as a part of explaining Wikipedia to a group of people without Wikipedia experience. It was used at a teachers' training course with 25 participants and two experienced Wikipedians as trainers. It should be suitable for different workshop situations as long as you have internet access and a certain amount of enthusiasm.
What is the solution?
What to prepare
Before the participants get active they should listen and look at some Wikipedia basics. This introduction can last up to an hour. The participants should know at least how the wiki markup looks like, what the revision history reveals and how important reliable sources are. Then the actual activity starts: their task is to write a new article as collaborative work within one or two hours. The participants are divided into small groups of two or three people.
You as a trainer need to prepare certain things in advance. You choose the topic for the new article. The topic should be convenient for all participants; it can be something they all deal with in their professional lives or an interesting building close to the premises of the workshop. Use Etherpad to prepare the article’s “frame” and different working tasks.
Prepare the frame of the article which includes the rather difficult formal aspects of an Wikipedia article:
- the beginning of the first sentence (The ''''thing we write about''' is)
- the section organization and headings
- the categories
- and (if applicable) geographic coordinates, persondata etc.
Prepare working tasks for the participants such as:
|Aspects||Writing one or two sentences about a certain aspect of the topic by using a given source (literature, internet link); understanding the necessity to rewrite the material and to write in whole sentences.||Using wikilinks; making a footnote for the “references” section.||
|Lead section||Writing the lead section introducing the topic by comparing it with lead sections of other articles with a similar topic and by using a given source (literature, internet link); understanding the necessity to rewrite the material and to write in whole sentences.||Using wikilinks and bold text.||
|Reliable sources||Internet research for a reliable source to prove a fact (e.g. “the building is acknowledged as a cultural heritage monument“).||Making a footnote for the “references” section.||
|Images||Researching an image for the article on Wikimedia Commons; writing a caption.||Using the image in the article.||
How to get them working and what to do while they are working
The participants are divided into groups of two or three. Each group has a computer with internet access and has one task to do. They all work in Etherpad. Explain them what they have to do and how, be patient and encouraging. You can also distribute printed Wikipedia cheatsheets.
Experienced Wikipedians help the participants as trainers - one trainer per ten participants should work fine. Approximately after the first 45 minutes you can present to all participants how much has been achieved so far by copying the article draft from Etherpad and going to preview on Wikipedia.
How to publish and what to do afterwards
The article is not meant to be perfect. Small beginner's mistakes, typos and misspellings are welcome. If you're lucky this enables you to show how the Wikipedia community deals with new entries and makes them better within a short amount of time. Nevertheless use the preview and let the participants read their article carefully before you save the page.
Don't publish the article while you're logged in as yourself (it's not your work and shouldn't be attributed to your user name). Do it while you're logged out or create a special user account for this. You can encourage the participants to create their own user accounts afterwards by showing them the effects of watchlisting the article.
- Inbetween the last year, we used this pattern in three of our University seminars at the University of Vienna. With an total of 80 students. This kind of Edit-a-thon is inherent part of our University-program, were every student does have its own, personel tutor (Wikipedians).
The most impressive result is, that the students can see, that after two hours (we use this time also for general informations) a real Wikipedia article is online, for most of them the first one. The students are perfectly motivated. Hubertl (talk) 20:06, 20 November 2015 (UTC)
- The education program is particularly good at framing this kind of Learning. I think we also need to think about the other direction: literacy leads to editing (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:The_Wikipedia_Library/Research_help&action=submit ) Astinson (WMF) (talk) 16:12, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
- The Melbourne component of WikiD Women. Wikipedia, Design found this a useful strategy. Our experienced Wikipedian supporters encouraged all mew participants to gains initial experience by developing their own user page, and then editing existing entries, before moving on to writing a new entry. Smdgejc (talk) 00:39, 31 January 2016 (UTC)